Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak called on rescue workers desperately trying to reach flood victims to step up their efforts to deliver food and water.
But Razak came under fire after photos showed him golfing in Hawaii with United States president Barack Obama during the storms.
The picture in question where Najib Razak is playing golf with Barack Obama in Hawaii. PIC/AP
Malaysians used his official Facebook page to question why he was not at home to deal with the crisis.
“The PM needs time to take a break. He has been working very hard so let’s be fair to him as a human being. Don’t worry, I’m in charge,” deputy prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin said.
Yassin also insisted the government had responded appropriately to the flooding. “We face floods every year but this is looking to be the worst the country has seen in the last 30 years,” he said.
“Unless there was a total breakdown in electricity or water supply, or if the number of evacuees rises to over hundreds of thousands, we will not declare a state of emergency,” he added.
Razak later decided to cut short his usual year-end vacation and return to Malaysia to oversee rescue operations. He is expected to land in Kelantan, one of the worst-hit states, and meet people affected by the crisis as well as discuss new measures with authorities to help flood victims. “I am deeply concerned by the floods. I feel for the people who have lost their homes, and the families who have lost loved ones. I want to see the situation for myself and be with the people,” the prime minister said in a statement.
The Malaysian Meteorological Department warned of a heavy downpour over the next few days in parts of the country that have so far been spared the worst of the flooding, including the southern state of Johor, which neighbours Singapore.